The Ruby and Calvin Fletcher Museum of African American History

952 East Broadway

Sources: Andréa Byrne, Editor Stratford Crier; CT Visit: Connecticut Tourism Office; Connecticut Mirror

Thursday 10 AM–5 PM
Friday Closed
Saturday 10 AM–3 PM
Sunday Closed
Monday 10 AM–5 PM
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 10 AM–5 PM
Phone: (203) 843-3102

The Ruby and Calvin Fletcher African American History Museum in Stratford. is the first of its kind in the state. The goal is to have an immersive experience that tells history through Black experiences.   Since its opening day on 952 East Broadway in October 2021, executive director Jeffrey Fletcher said the museum has been booked and busy.

Fletcher said all of the exhibits help emphasize the importance of bringing Black history in this capacity to Connecticut, and this is why it’s entirely free (Though donations are accepted.)

“4,535 people have visited this museum,” said Fletcher. “Everywhere from Connecticut, New England, and the tri-state.”  Fletcher explained that the museum shares America’s history through the Black experience and walks people through untold, overlooked.

“They get a first-hand experience of being immersed in this type of history,” Fletcher said.  “It’s a cultural and historical experience that takes people on a journey starting in 1619, venturing through American slavery into the Jim Crow South and concluding on a positive note with the progress we’ve made thus far.

“It is a tough history for not only whites but blacks as well,” said Fletcher. “Because we are taught this in our homes but never have we seen it up close and personal.”

There are 10 exhibits/collections with hundreds of collected and donated artifacts; many are from the Fletcher family’s group that helps bring African American history to life.

His journey with this project began with the over 400 artifacts his mother, Ruby, collected during her long lifetime. They filled the house in Colchester where Jeffrey grew up, and when he went to college they began to spill over into his room. While the collection was orderly, at the time he considered it just so much useless junk, and something his father Clifford indulged her in. His parents were jokingly but lovingly referred to as the junk-collectors Fred Sanford and Lamont, in the old TV show Sanford and Son.

Ruby died in 2006, but she had begun to chronicle her entire collection, as if she’d had a premonition of her death. “I realized then that all these items were telling a story—not only my mother’s, but a story of our country,” Jeffrey said.

She and Clifford had escaped the Jim Crow south to come to Connecticut, and the family they raised here is close and deeply spiritual. Jeffrey carries a small, well-worn Bible from his mother.  “I never leave my house without it,” he says. “Through all my years on the police force it was always in my shirt pocket, right over my heart.”

One of the exhibits is on the Tuskegee Airmen, which spotlights Hartford native 2nd Lt. Edward Thornton Dixon.  Lt. Dixon was not the only Connecticut member of the Tuskegee Airmen, others include:

James A. Calhoun,  2nd Lt. Bridgeport CT, who lost his life in battle.  Lt. Calhoun’s story can be found at:

Edward T. Dixon, 2nd Lt. Hartford CT,

Lloyd L. Radcliff, 2nd Lt. New Haven CT,

James W. Whyte, Jr. 2nd Lt. New Haven CT

The exhibits are a collection of artifacts that reflect decades of turbulent times for African Americans in the United States during the period of slavery and the Civil Rights movement. It brings visitors up close and personal which is an experience that many have only read about in history books or seen in movies.

The museum embraces the teachings of tolerance, diversity, unity, and educating people that there was a time when imagery played a significant role in how African Americans were perceived.

The artifacts and memorabilia may seem to be difficult to view but they are a part of African American history that needs to be told just as much as the triumphs which were made by African American pioneers and trailblazers.

The exhibits are an opportunity to begin honest conversations regarding a rich and strong history which has historically been maligned. The Images of America exhibit is an experience that will leave lasting impressions and memories.

Fletcher’s intent is to show the factual history but not to lay blame for the past. He feels that would deny people the opportunity to truly take in and process the history that starts with: a 1619 Africa room; a slave ship; a visit to a room that features the Pullman Porters:  The history of the Pullman Porters is yet a stain as well as a triumph.  Industrialist George Pullman created luxury sleeper cars for train travel, and hired former enslaved men to be the porters attending to travelers. He reasoned that they knew better than anyone how to serve and cater to the wealthy customers’ wants and needs, and do it for not much pay. Because he thought passengers wouldn’t have time or interest in learning the porters’ names, all had ‘George’ on their name tags. FYI: Actor Jacky Gleason, who always traveled by train, was one who took the time to ask each porter’s real name—and remember it.

There is a tribute to A. Philip Randolph, who organized the first African American union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. There are also authentic uniforms on display from a job that became a matter of pride for many, and led to opportunities not open to others.

The Entertainment exhibit has a mock up of a vintage movie theater of days gone by with a display of period movie posters, a large screen with running segments of The African Queen and Gone With The Wind opposite a row of old wooden theater seats.

The Civil Rights room with images of Dr. Martin Luther King and other notable people who so bravely stood for the rights which should be afforded to everyone. There are three doors with signage that reads ‘white men’, ‘white women’, and ‘colored men’. Not even a door for ‘colored women’—they were to use the ‘colored men’s’ room and take their chances of being walked in on. This exhibit demonstrates the clear divisions there were at the time, and that still exist today in some minds.

The final room is dedicated to music with a display of 33 rpm albums and other items that were part of Ruby’s collection. Mounted on the wall are two guitars that had been his father’s, one of which was hand-made by Calvin. Calvin, who died in 2010, could not read music but had the great gift of being able to play a song flawlessly after hearing it only once or twice.

There is much to be learned by visiting the museum, as Fletcher wanted this museum to be located in his home state so that children and adults here could benefit without distant and expensive excursions to the Smithsonian or elsewhere. Interested students from Bunnell and Stratford High Schools volunteer not only during weekend museum hours, but also to work behind the scenes with the exhibits and have a genuine hands-on and intimate experience with this history. The basic staff is small, consisting of Jeffrey Fletcher, his assistant Elizabeth O’Rourke, and graphic designer Christine Bliss-LaCroix.

It’s a testament to the love and admiration that Jeffrey has for his late parents that he named this museum for them. In their memory, he wants people to see actual historical items and match them with what they read in textbooks, history books or novels. He wants them to understand. And as he says, “Now is the time; this is the place.”

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